JUBA - Sudan's government says President Omar al-Bashir has chosen to skip a summit in Riyadh that U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend because Bashir does not want to upset Sudanese-American relations.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal says Khartoum recognizes that Bashir's indictment by the International Criminal Court makes it difficult for him to meet the U.S. president.
"The situation of the president in the international community is linked to the ICC indictment, and that is sort of an embarrassment and we don’t want to complicate things," he tells VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
Bilal says that meeting Bashir might cause trouble for Trump, who is expected to decide whether to completely lift economic sanctions first imposed on Sudan by the United States in 1997.
“If he met the president this would be an extra pressure and besides, it would be an opportunity for the opposition there to make some problems about lifting [of sanctions]," says Bilal.
President Bashir is wanted by The Hague-based ICC for alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region.
Sudan announced earlier Friday that Bashir would not attend the American-Arab Islamic Summit in the Saudi capital where President Trump is expected to deliver a speech about his “hope for a peaceful vision of Islam.”
A Khartoum-based political analyst, Ismail Ibrahim, says as long as Bashir has outstanding arrest warrants against him, it is unlikely that he will ever meet the U.S. president.
“I don’t think he can be allowed to attend a meeting presided [over] by the president of the United States of America," he says. "This would open a very complicated file and he should not try to navigate such waters or territory now. Ibrahim says Bashir should focus on making peace in his home country. "
Sudan's government continues to battle rebels in Darfur and in two states along the country's border with South Sudan.
“The president should concentrate on how to bring about peace in the country, unify the so-called internal friends, bring about those who have yet to join the dialogue on the peace process in the Sudan and I hope that will ultimately lead to the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on the Sudan completely," Ibrahim says.
The Sudanese news agency SUNA reported Friday that President Bashir has apologized to Saudi Arabia's King Salman for being unable to attend the summit for personal reasons.